When my daughter was an infant, feeding her was so simple. It was either breast milk or formula. Since I decided to breastfeed, I didn’t even need to try to sort through the multitude of formula varieties available. When it was time to introduce solids, things got fuzzy. How much food to give, what to introduce when? It seemed whoever you asked or whatever book, article or website you read, you got a different answer. After a sufficient amount of head spinning, I landed on a treasure trove of information at www.wholesomebabyfood.com. The site echoes the well known warnings about nuts and shellfish but is not so alarmist about other foods such as berries, eggs and fish. It’s a handy guide for feeding your child as she starts solids, including information on cooking, pureeing, and storing foods. There are even menus and recipes to help you plan meals for baby. I suppose the whole solids thing would have been easier if I hadn’t insisted on homemade baby food. I could have just bought jars of food according to lil’ nugget’s stage and not put any more thought into it. I did shop for inspiration in the baby food aisle where I got some good ideas for taste combinations.
But once the typical first foods had been tackled, the confusion about what to feed my little peanut began and it has still not ended at 20 months. It seems everyone has a different opinion. I remember at nugget’s 9 month well-baby visit being told to hold off on fish until she was 12 months. Whoops! She’d already been chowing down on fish sticks for a couple of months at that point. Same issue with egg yolks. And even though the trusted wholesomebabyfood.com advises to hold off on egg whites until 12 months, an article in one of my many baby magazines had given the go-ahead at a younger age (I forget exactly when), which sort of makes sense given that most vaccines have an egg albumen base…This whole issue was brought back recently at a friend’s cookout when peanut reached into a bowl of fruit salad. My friend pulled the bowl away to save lil’ nugget from a certain fate of an allergy to strawberries. Though I assured my friend that peanut has already had strawberries, she insisted that babies shouldn’t eat strawberries before the age of three or they risked developing allergies later in life. She said the same was true for honey and then rattled off some other no-no’s.
So, here’s my dilemma: according to our pediatrician, apart from the obvious super high allergen or unsafe foods (nuts and shellfish, and high mercury fish) all foods were fair game at 12 months. Her office even has an article pinned to the wall detailing the use of honey as a cough suppressant for babies older than 12 months (which we have used, quite successfully). Granted, my strawberry avoiding friend’s youngest child is now eight and recommendations have had plenty of time to change and change again in that time, but I just have to wonder how parents are supposed to know what to feed when and how to keep their children safe. There are even cultural differences in baby feeding. When we traveled to Ireland when peanut was 8 months old and still pretty much at the first foods stage, I could not find anything equivalent in the local stores. All available jarred baby foods were full multi-ingredient dinners: lasagna, spaghetti Bolognese, pot roast, etc. What struck me the most was the prevalence of tomatoes, which I understood to be off limits until 10-12 months… I have decided that with all the contradictory advice floating around, I would follow the advice that made the most sense to me and that wouldn’t make our lives too difficult in terms of limiting lil nugget’s culinary development. So far it’s worked for us.